Friday, November 13, 2009
What Does A POD Peep Read: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
I’ve never met Cherie Priest, but if her blog is anything to go by, she would be as entertaining in person as her books are. Since I just finished reading what might be her breakthrough novel, Boneshaker, let me say that she would be very entertaining indeed.
Cherie, who hangs out with the science fiction folks, produced a trio of southern-fried Gothic novels (Four and Twenty Blackbirds and two sequels) a few years ago. With her latest book, Boneshaker, she moves squarely into science fiction, writing a “steampunk with zombies!” novel. It’s set in her adopted hometown of Seattle circa 1880.
But her “circa” is much different than ours. The Civil War is still raging back east, and Seattle is a territory. Gold was discovered in what is still Russian Alaska at the start of the Civil War, and one Leviticus Blue was given a contract by the Russians to build a gold-digging machine he called “Boneshaker.” During an unscheduled (or at least unannounced) test, the Boneshaker rips up a chunk of downtown Seattle, including a surprisingly high percentage of the town’s bank basements.
The Boneshaker also causes the release of a toxic gas that kills most and turns the rest into zombies. Seattle is hastily evacuated and walled off. A young boy of fifteen, Zeke Wilkes, born just after the evacuation, decides to sneak back into the walled-off zombie area of town, on a mission that’s only clear if you’re fifteen. His mother, Briar Wilkes, decides to go in after him, and, trading on her father’s name, enlists a local zeppelin captain to get her in and out.
To say the novel moves along briskly is an understatement; “rocket-propelled” is more accurate. But this isn’t just a roller-coaster ride. Briar and Zeke are well-developed characters, as are the supporting players. Although Briar and Zeke are very resourceful, a good quality to have if you’re in zombie country, neither are they invincible. The world-building is first-rate, and the images created the author are memorable. Although the book is not intended for a young adult audience, it would be enjoyable to the teenager on your Christmas list.
Bottom line – Cherie Priest hit this one out of the ball park.